7. Get Inside Your Character's Shoes, and Pockets, and Fridge...

The Novel Formula - A Novel Writing Method: Step Seven

Full Character Profiles - Character Questionnaire
By now, you should already have a basic character profile for each of your main characters - comprising name, age, motivation, a single sentence summary of their role in the story, and a single paragraph summary of their role in the story. Also, you'll have completed an initial investigation into what makes each character tick.
Next, we're going to complete a detailed questionnaire about each major character. This is useful because it makes you look at  them from all kinds of angles you might not have thought of - such as: what do they have in their pockets? Or, how do they treat people worse off than them? And these little insights and details may help add interesting twists and layers to your plot.
If things occur to you while you're completing the questionnaires, it's a good idea to note the changes on your synopses - it should be a working document, constantly being updated and fine tuned as new strokes of genius occur to you.
Even the answers you discover that have no direct impact on your plot are invaluable. The information will help round out the character in your mind, and when you write from their perspective - this will come out, whether you notice it or not.
It's best not to try to complete the questionnaires for all characters at the same time - do each character at least one day apart, otherwise you'll rush it and burn out.
Another reason it's good to spread these out over a little time, is to give you a chance to people-watch in between. With the questions fresh in your mind, observe all the people around you - family, friends, colleagues, strangers - watch them all, and see what inspiration you get to supply interesting answers to the questions.
Completing these questionnaires should also highlight if any of your characters are too similar. If you're finding yourself writing too many of the same or similar answers then your characters may not be unique enough, and it may be worth doing more to make them stand apart.
If you have two characters that both have wild hair, sharp blue eyes and a cocky, outgoing personality, you've got to ask yourself, do you really need both of them? Could their actions be merged, streamlined into one? (Compare the Trainspotting film and book for interesting examples of how this can be done). More importantly, if your characters are too similar, your readers might get confused between them, and that's a sure-fire way to ruin your carefully thought out plot.
The questions in the character questionnaire are deliberately vague, they are meant to be open to a bit of interpretation.
One final note - don't get too dogmatic about it - if you want to skip a question, skip it. It's not an exam.
So, here's the character questionnaire:
Update - Click here for the new updated Ultimate Character Questionnaire
1.            First name:
2.            Surname:
3.            Middle name:
4.            Nicknames:
5.            Date of birth:
6.            Age:      
7.            Height:  
8.            Weight:  
9.            Hair:
10.          Eyes: 
15.          Skin:
20.          Hands:
21.          Scars, handicaps: 
24.          Family:
29.          Best friend:
34.          Other friends:
39.          Acquaintances:
44.          What makes them laugh:
45.          Ambitions:
46.          Philosophy of life:
47.          Hobbies:
48.          Music, art, reading preferred:
49.          Style of dressing:
50.          Favourite colour:
51.          What is in her purse or his wallet: 
56.          What is in their pockets:
57.          Favourite food:
58.          Allergies:
63.          What is in their fridge:
68.          Possessions:
69.          Most treasured possession:
70.          Educational background:
71.          Work experience/occupation: 
72.          Enemies and why:
73.          Description of home:
74.          Description of bedroom:
75.          Strongest character trait:
76.          Weakest character trait:
77.          Sees self as:
78.          Seen by others as:
79.          How do they treat people better than them:
84.          How do they treat people worse than them:
85.          Strongest childhood memory:
88.          How do they react to praise:
91.          How do they react to adversity:


  1. Very interesting and impressive guidance given about novel writing.


  2. Is this a selection from a larger questionnaire that could be found elsewhere, or are the numbers just jumpy for fun?

    1. Ooops! Not sure why the numbers are jumpy - well spotted! No, this is the complete list. So far...